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Politicsby Ian Round9:45 amMar 9, 20200

Young complains about charter change bills

The measures are on tonight’s agenda, along with a proposal to direct some energy tax revenue to the Fair Election Fund

Above: City Hall faces a huge revenue shortfall. (Mark Reutter)

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young is protesting three charter amendment bills on tonight’s City Council meeting agenda, the latest flare-up of tension between Young and City Council President Brandon M. Scott, opponents in the upcoming April mayoral primary.

Young released a letter today calling on Scott to send the three bills back to the Equity and Structure Committee rather than allowing the full Council to vote them.

One would reduce the number of votes needed to override a veto from three fourths to two thirds, or from 12 to to 10 votes, and eliminate the mayor’s ability to veto line items on appropriation bills.

Another proposed amendment clarifies the timing of the veto override vote, and a third requires a review of the entire city charter every 10 years.

A press release from Young’s office, noting that 13 proposed charter changes are now pending, argued they should not be reviewed in isolation.

“These amendments contain elements that, when taken piecemeal, would contradict one another or have major implications for everything from routine city operations to our bond rating and financial solvency,” the release said.

Scott’s aide, Stefanie Mavronis, said the three measures advanced are not aimed at the kind of serious structural changes that the other amendments propose.

“The Council takes this process very seriously and is moving forward on it with care,” Mavronis said.

Fair Election Funding

Also coming up at tonight’s meeting, Councilman Kristerfer Burnett will introduce a bill dedicating some revenue from the city’s energy tax to the new Fair Election Fund, which is intended to reduce the influence of big money in local politics.

The Council passed a bill in December (19-0403) creating the fund for candidates who accept contributions no larger than $150 and take no money at all from unions, PACs or corporations.

Tonight’s bill will allocate money for the fund. (The text of the bill, 20-0510, is not yet online.)

Council critics, Eric Costello in particular, have been  concerned about how much the city would spend on the fund. WYPR reported that proponents expect the fund to take up a small fraction of the city’s budget, about $2.5 million per year.

Costello said last month it was ironic that several Council members who support the fund had questioned the cost of his security camera rebate program, which is up for final passage tonight.

The city expects to make the election fund available to candidates in 2024.

City voters overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment in 2018 allowing the City Council to create such a fund.

Zero Waste Resolution

A year after the Council passed a law that is expected to force the closure of the Wheelabrator incinerator in South Baltimore, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke will introduce a resolution calling on the administration to move toward zero waste.

The resolution calls for the city to implement the recommendations of a report, published last month, that seeks to combine environmental and racial justice.

Also happening: Council President Scott will introduce a resolution opposing a strict immigration policy change that went into effect last month.

Known as the Public Charge Rule, it is intended to keep poor immigrants who use public benefits out of the country.

Tonight’s meeting is at 5 p.m. at City Hall. It will be live-streamed on CharmTV.

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